Blantyre - Abbey Travel, Ireland


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Welcome to Blantyre


Named after Dr. Livingstone's birthplace in Scotland, Blantyre is Malawi's commercial centre and capital of the country's Southern Region, as well as the Blantyre District. It has a modest but influential expatriate community of people, mainly from England, other European countries and South Africa. The city is also home to the College of Medicine, the Malawi Polytechnic, the Kamuzu College of Nursing and constituent colleges of the University of Malawi.

Mount Soche and the Ndirande, Chiradzulu and Michiru mountains overlook Blantyre, forming the Michiru Mountain Conservation Area. The National Museum is midway between Blantyre and Limbe and houses a collection of traditional weapons and artefacts, as well as exhibits relating to traditional dance, European exploration and slavery. There are various restaurants and hotels in Blantyre, as well as pubs and sports bars. Most visitors to Malawi end up in Blantyre eventually and it's a good place to relax, do a bit of shopping and get a decent meal. Incidentally, Blantyre is twinned with Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England.

Information & Facts


Winter is the best time to visit Malawi, coinciding with the dry season, and lasting from May to October. The dry season is also the best time for game viewing and hiking. June and July are the coolest months with average daytime temperatures of 70ºF (21ºC), and colder nights especially in the highlands. November to April is the hot, humid rainy season with more rain falling on the higher plateaus than around the lake, with temperatures reaching up to 90ºF (mid-30ºCs). Some roads may become impassable during heavy rains.

Getting Around

You can travel around Malawi by air, road, rail or boat. Distances between major centres are short but in recent years several stretches of road have become very badly potholed, making driving difficult and sometimes dangerous. The best mode of transport is however by car, and there are various international car rental companies in Malawi. The main road through Malawi runs from the north down to Mzuzu, then through the centre of the country to Lilongwe, and on to Blantyre and the south. Taxis are available in and around town but there are also bus services available. The train in Malawi is slow, crowded and limited (there are no passenger trains to Lilongwe). Every week, the Ilala passenger ferry chugs up and down Lake Malawi between Monkey Bay and Chilumba, stopping at a dozen towns and villages (contact Malawi Lake Services).

English is the official language, but Chichewa is more commonly spoken.

The official currency is the Malawi Kwacha (MWK), which is divided into 100 tambalas. Travellers cheques and foreign currencies are accepted by banks, authorised hotels and other institutions in the main town centres; bureaux de change are also available. The US dollar is the easiest currency to exchange. Credit cards are not widely accepted and ATMs are scarce and should not be relied upon. Exchanging currency on the black market is not recommended.

Carlsberg Malawi Brewery Limited, opened in 1968, was the first Carlsberg brewery established outside of Denmark. It is also the only brewing and beer packaging facility in Malawi and brands include Carlsberg Green, Light and Classic, as well as Carlsberg Stout and Kuche Kuche. The visitors centre has Carlsberg novelties on sale to visitors, and there are tours and beer tastings to enjoy at the brewery.

Mandala House, originally constructed in 1882 using grass, mud and bricks, is the oldest building in Malawi. Today this historic building is home to a library and archive that hold an equally significant collection of books, journals and original documents. La Caverna Art Gallery and Café (which serves delicious cakes and iced coffee) is also located on the premises.

Mount Mulanje rises from the plains of southern Malawi with steep cliffs protecting a vast wilderness of granite peaks, dense forest, grassy meadows and trickling streams. Hire a guide (essential) and porters from Mulanje village, and buy any provisions that you may need. The first day's hike is testing as you climb steep mountain paths. Once you reach the top, you enter an enchanting landscape; there are wood huts where you can sleep and enough trails for days of walking. Climbers can scale some of the peaks and the prominent granite crags also provide a challenge. The best time to hike is in the early dry season (May to July) when temperatures are moderate (it can get reasonably cold at night on the plateau). Be prepared for rain whenever you visit.

The National Museum of Malawi, also referred to as the Chichiri Museum, showcases the natural history and cultural heritage of the country. Traditional dance, European colonisation and slave trade artefacts are exhibited at the museum, as well as case studies including insect collections and mounted specimens from the country's national parks. There are geological samples from the Machinga meteorite of 1981 on display, and also an open-air exhibit of the history of transport in Malawi.

Zomba Plateau is an undulating, forested plateau rising from the eastern Rift above the town. The plateau is heavily planted with pines, but there are many easily accessible montane forests around with patches of Afromontaine forest, interspersed with grassland, pine plantations and, further down, some fine Brachystegia woodland. Zomba itself has retained some of its old charm as the former colonial capital of Malawi.

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